NIGERIA AIR: The latest and hopefully final scandal from the Buhari government
Findings reveal that the Boeing 737-800 series aircraft, which the Federal Government flew into Abuja for the unveiling of Nigeria Air, is owned by Ethiopian Airlines. The aircraft, with registration ET-APL, took off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at 9:55 a.m. on Friday and landed at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, at 12:43 p.m.
Hadi Sirika, the Minister of Aviation, expressed his delight that the project had finally taken off after a long and challenging journey. He unveiled the aircraft at the General Aviation Terminal of the Abuja airport.
Investigations into the ownership of the aircraft revealed that it had been operating under Ethiopian Airlines until recently. Its flight history showed that it flew from Addis Ababa to Tel Aviv in Israel and then operated flights between Tel Aviv, Mogadishu in Somalia, and Beirut in Lebanon on various dates.
The Nigeria Air project involves a partnership between Ethiopian Airlines and Nigerian companies. Ethiopian Airlines holds a majority stake of 49%, while two Nigerian companies hold a combined 46% stake. The remaining 5% stake is held by the Federal Government. However, this ownership structure has led to a legal dispute, as domestic airlines under the Airline Operators of Nigeria (AON) filed a lawsuit against the Federal Government. These domestic airlines, including Azman Air, Air Peace, Max Air, Topbrass Aviation, and United Nigeria Airlines, argue that the partnership with Ethiopian Airlines threatens their businesses by opening up their market.
The domestic airlines demanded up to N2 billion in damages, citing “wrongful exclusion and unlawful bidding and selection processes” for the Nigeria Air project.
While Minister Hadi Sirika had previously announced the arrival of the Nigerian Air aircraft, he did not clarify whether it was purchased for the project. However, he had previously stated that the Federal Executive Council had approved the leasing of three aircraft for the carrier. The plan was to start with domestic flights and then expand to international, regional, and intercontinental routes.
It should be noted that the arrival of the aircraft does not signify the commencement of commercial operations for the airline, according to the CEO of Aero Contractors, Capt. Ado Sanusi. He explained that obtaining the necessary approvals from the regulatory authority, the Nigeria Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), including demonstration flights, is a rigorous process that cannot be completed within two days.
During the initial stages of the Nigeria Air project, the Minister of Aviation had mentioned that the carrier had considered 81 potential destinations, including China and India.
Source: National Pivot